Northern France takes center stage in politics ahead of the 2022 polls


Last month, Emmanuel Macron opened a new battery factory in a former coal mine in northern France. The only problem is that the local politician and presidential candidate Xavier Bertrand announced the news three days ago.

In his first re-election campaign speech, Macron later outlined the necessity of France’s “re-industrialization” and expressed his hope that Hauts-de-France’s battery project heralded “large-scale investment in the transformation of the automotive industry.”

“The important thing is not the speech. The real question is what is actually done,” commented Bertrand, the center-right former Minister of Health who has been chairman of the regional committee since 2015.

Less than a year before the presidential election, the political struggle in the United States Upper France Reflects how the issue of reindustrialization took center stage in the movement, as the region became an experimental case of mainstream political revival.

The far-right party of Marine Le Pen has found fertile land in this once left-leaning province, which has the highest unemployment rate in France, at 9.4%.This National gathering Opinion polls show that he will get enough votes to enter the second round of presidential elections next spring. Her biggest election victory there.

Hauts-de-France is the obvious choice for battery projects.The French automobile industry invests heavily there Since the late 1960sThis partly helped offset the decline in mining and steel. But manufacturing is increasingly outsourced to cheap factories in emerging markets, and jobs are lost. Now, as automakers face EU antitrust review and emission regulations, factories are once again in danger.

According to data compiled by Paris-based consulting firm Trendeo, the northern region around Lille has ranked second in the number of factory closures in France in the past 12 years. Insee, the French statistical agency, stated that between 2006 and 2016, the region’s industrial sector lost more than a quarter of its labor force, which was the largest decline recorded in a French metropolis.

A bar graph of net worth of closed and reopened factories from 2009 to 2021, showing that France has the second largest number of closed factories

But there are preliminary signs of improvement: the rate of factory closures has slowed in the past three years. According to data from the government agency Business France, since 2014, Hauts-de-France has also been one of the top destinations for foreign direct investment, with the highest per capita employment opportunities created by foreign direct investment.

Analysts said that although Macron’s presidency and Bertrand’s local efforts have not reversed the trend of industrial decline in the region, the rise of the extreme right in impoverished provinces and Yellow vest The protest means that it has become the subject of more financial and political attention.

Senior economist Elie Cohen said that under the helm of a highly centralized government, Macron is injecting capital into new industries such as batteries and hydrogen energy, reducing red tape, and “pleading the EU” to take industrial autonomy more seriously. On the one hand, they deserve most of the honor. At the National Scientific Research Center.

During the pandemic, with logistics and supply issues in areas such as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and manufacturing components (including semiconductors), his efforts to bring production back to France received greater support.

The bar chart of Hauts de France net factory closures and openings shows an increase in the number of new factories since 2014

These efforts were supplemented by funding and training provided by the regional committee chaired by Bertrand. Jean-Luis Guerin, an economist and director of Finorpa, a local private equity firm, said that he “hands himself” in an effort to attract companies and give them autonomy when they arrive.

In the northern city of Duvlin, the Automotive Battery Company (ACC), a joint venture between the car manufacturer Stellattis and the French energy group Total, will start producing batteries at the end of 2023 and will create 1,400-2,000 jobs by 2030. According to Yann Vincent, CEO of the joint venture, 1.2 billion euros and 120 million euros were invested in the region.

Vincent said that electric car batteries have become a national priority because Europe “cannot be in the hands of China, which currently dominates the market.”

Economists say that no matter what progress has been made, this transition is fragile. They pointed out that net foreign direct investment in France has declined during the pandemic last year. Some people believe that this should prompt people to rethink France’s central decision-making.

The bar chart (in billions of euros) shows that French foreign direct investment has fallen to its lowest level since 2014

Daniela Ordonez of Oxford Economics says the country’s “top-down” strategy of injecting capital into large companies such as Stellattis has not done enough to promote the growth of small businesses . France is “too paternalistic” in choosing industry support.

“Trade in industrial products is deteriorating every month, and our market share in world exports is deteriorating every quarter,” said Patrick Artus, chief economist of the French Foreign Trade Bank. “If you continue to create only bad jobs, even if you lower the unemployment rate, you will have more Yellow vest. “

At the same time, 40-year-old Fabrice Jamart, a member of the CGT union at the Stellattis factory, said that national policies and emerging industries avoided the more direct risk of job disappearance. He looked at the window of the temporary office outside the factory and said, “I hope it is wonderful, but I hope I won’t put food in my refrigerator.”



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